The House of H absburg had emerged as a m ajor power in central Europe with the family’s acquisition of the Duchy of A ustria in 1278. O ver the succeeding century-and-a-half, as the W ittelsbach and Luxem burg families fought for the im perial throne, the H absburgs engaged in the less glamorous task of extending and building up their newly-acquired A ustrian possessions. In 1438, with the extinction of the Luxem burg family, a H absburg was elected Holy Rom an Em peror. Henceforward, until 1806, the imperial title lay in H absburg hands. U nder the H absburg Frederick I I I (1440-93) and his son and co-ruler, M axim ilian (1486-1519), the dignity of em peror was m ade to lend a quasi-m ystical character to w hat became known as the ‘House of A ustria’. The House was portrayed as preordained by God to hold sway not ju s t in G erm any but in all of Christendom , a e i o u was the cabbalistic acronym devised by Frederick to give expression to this purpose: Alles Erdreich 1st Osterreich Untertan (The whole world is subject to Austria). The chosen instrum ent by which the H absburgs sought to realise their sublime am bition was not warfare with but m arriage into the ruling dynasties of Europe (88). I t was by this m ethod that Burgundy was acquired in 1477 and, fifty years later, H ungary and Bohemia. By the same route, and by considerable good fortune, Charles him self was led to the kingdoms of Spain.